Entries Tagged as 'snacks'

Star-Spangled Cookies

1

30.6.14

star-spangled cookies // sweetsonian

Because America’s bests holiday is right around the corner.

I’m a little rusty on the icing skills, but these will have to do.

star-spangled cookies // sweetsonian

star-spangled cookies // sweetsonian

star-spangled cookies // sweetsonian

star-spangled cookies // sweetsonian

Star-Spangled Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing, recipe after the jump. (more…)

Hazelnut Lemon Cake with Roasted Blueberries

0

09.6.14

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

Summer has arrived, swiftly warning me of its brutality.

Today is my day off — I didn’t have much planned except for yoga this evening, but Kristen invited me to speak to her 6th and 7th graders about having a career in art. While one class seemed more interested in knowing if I knew “how to hack” or not (I told them that Google knew every single thing they did on the internet, so it was in their best interest to not hack), some students were genuinely interested in learning more about art and design.

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

I sure wish I had someone to talk to about careers in creative when I was younger! My newspaper advisor in high school (now a client!) was always supportive of my want to pursue design as a career, but being part of a family who only cared about finance made art school impossible.

It’s weird, isn’t it? I have friends working in almost every industry that exists. Some whose parents are creatives and encouraged creative careers — some of that backfires and sometimes it works. There seems to be a delicate balance. My parents strongly (forcefully) encouraged me to pursue finance and accounting. Sophomore year of college, I took an accounting class, and was doing pretty well. I hated every minute of every econ class I ever took, and I went into that accounting class with an A. But halfway through the final, I thought to myself, why the hell am I here? I hate accounting. I refuse to ever take another accounting class again.

So I walked out of the final exam. I got a C.

My dad wanted to kill me, but I knew I had made the right decision. It was the decision to choose my own courses, and to finally stop letting my parents dictate what I wanted. Back then, I wanted to be a CIA operative. I started taking Arabic classes, and I excelled. My parents rolled their eyes.

And don’t get me wrong, I loved my college experience, and my Arabic wasn’t bad — I had a couple of job offers for career paths close to being a CIA operative (but not quite the real thing). And I liked it, but there’s just no comparison to how much I love what I do now. I don’t think time was wasted, per se, but man, twenty-seven year old Sarah would loooove to travel back to 2004 and whisper some advice to high school Sarah. It wouldn’t be to specifically go to art school, but it would have been to stop letting my parents scare me into a career that I didn’t want.

Instead of the year and a half of economics classes for the business major, I could have been taking illustration and design. I can take those classes now, but sometimes, I wish I had a better base.

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

Of course, the grass is always greener. Who knows, if I went to art school when I was an undergrad, the recession could have killed any marketing budgets that could have funded a budding career — especially in Los Angeles.

It’s one of the many reasons why I love talking to kids about my job. I tell them about how I always loved art and creativity, and that I was somehow able to make it my full-time job, and that these days, it’s much easier to find work in creative than it was ten years ago. And half of the interesting stuff lies in the fact that I didn’t go to art school. I technically didn’t have to go to school at all. But it shows that you don’t need a degree in whatever the rest of your life will be spent doing.

And when the kids ask me how many hours I spend working, it’s always shocking to add it up and tell them sometimes up to 70 hours a week. I can see their eyes bug out, but I always supplement it with telling them: You know, if you’re lucky enough to really love your work, it won’t always feel like work. Which is true. Now, if I could just turn writing this blog and making yummy treats my full-time job. That would be a treat, wouldn’t it?

Hazelnut lemon bread & roasted blueberries // sweetsonian

Hazelnut Lemon Cake with Roasted Blueberries, adapted from Diana Rossen Worthington

Ingredients:

3/4 cup hazelnuts, finely ground
3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Zest of half a lemon

1 pint fresh blueberries, cleaned and picked over
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Mint sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

Combine the flour, walnut meal, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Stir with a fork, and set aside.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and the granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then the sour cream and lemon zest. Slowly add the dry ingredients (I have this thing to keep my KitchenAid mixer from spraying flour all over the counter) and mix until just blended.

Pour the batter into your loaf pan, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

Pour the blueberries into a baking dish or cast iron skillet. Sprinkle with brown sugar and butter, and stir to combine. Roast them in the oven until the blueberries are about to burst — about 10 minutes.

Serve each slice of cake with a spoonful of roasted blueberries, and garnish with mint (optional) if you like.

Broiled Balsamic Artichokes with Pesto Mayo

0

19.5.14

broiled balsamic artichokes with pesto mayo // sweetsonian

It’s been a while since I worked in the restaurant business. But, aside from the managers I worked for, I do look back on my days as a hostess and waitress pretty fondly. I was by far one of the youngest people working in that restaurant, and frequently referred to as the baby — which I never really minded. It was only another means for me to dip my toes into the social lives of the wait staff of Los Angeles, which is its own beast in and of itself.

Back then, I always felt like I had multiple lives. There was my life at UCSB, pretty and pristine on the beach, with jungle juice (bleghh), running to the Goleta Pier, and fake-fighting with my gay over the hot TA that would eventually become one of my oldest friends. Then, there was my life at the restaurant, counting cash in my parents’ car, triple-seating my ex’s new love interest whenever she picked a fight with the guy, and capping off our late-night shifts with underage cocktails at Fridays (the mojitos were exciting back then, but I shudder at the thought of ever going back to a TGIFridays in the San Fernando Valley). And finally, there was my life at UCLA — football games on the weekends, Red Bull all-nighters in Powell Library, and finally living in my own apartment in Westwood.

The worlds rarely collided. It was as if I teleported between entirely different dimensions when I crossed the borders between Los Angeles, Calabasas, and Santa Barbara.

broiled balsamic artichokes with pesto mayo // sweetsonian

broiled balsamic artichokes with pesto mayo // sweetsonian

broiled balsamic artichokes with pesto mayo // sweetsonian

I wouldn’t trade in those days for anything. Since then, friendships have come and gone, and my little brother is even working at that exact restaurant. I see patterns in his social life and his thought processes that reflect what I went through as one of the younger members of a restaurant that was about to graduate from college.

And he mentions things like trying to hide his relationship with another hostess, and, well, I did the same thing when I worked there. But in hindsight, I try to give him advice that would help him be less foolish than I was — even though I know too well that those words of wisdom would be fruitless to a 21-year old in lurve.

Perhaps I don’t want him to get attached because I know that it’s easy to get lost in these worlds. Being 19 or 22 in college in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara feels so unreal at this point in my life. The things I worried about then, the silly problems that stressed me out or made me feel invincible or made me cry — looking back, I wish I knew so much more about why they did or didn’t matter. I come from a family that doesn’t acknowledge emotions at all, so I had no idea what depression was when I went through it. I didn’t know what it was until it hit me in the face. But since leaving California, I feel like I’ve inadvertently surrounded myself with people who have their own stories, their own comparisons of their separate lives that have helped me understand my emotions, how to become more self-aware, and when to recognize when you have real issues to face, or when you’re having a mini panic attack over something that will be an invisible speck in the grand canyon view of your entire life.

broiled balsamic artichokes with pesto mayo // sweetsonian

broiled balsamic artichokes with pesto mayo // sweetsonian

And really, I’ve just recently come to terms with anxiety — what it is, what it actually feels like, and how to deal with it. Emotions are so incredibly layered, and part of me wishes I met the people I’m so close to now back in high school, when self-awareness could have come in so, so handy. These days, I can just pop some ibuprofen after one too many cocktails, or something else when I realize that I’m physically stressed about something that really doesn’t matter. Like when I’m suddenly overcome with doubt or guilt for some memory that pops into my head from my waiting days or from high school. It’s weird how the littlest memories can strike the most negative or positive emotions for me. Perhaps, you know what I’m talking about.

That being said, science is a wonderful thing. And so are friends who help you through your anxiety. Maybe I’m just rambling at this point.

This recipe was actually one of the recipes on the menu at that restaurant I worked at, where I went through just roller coaster after roller coaster of emotions. I even checked their current menus to see if it was still there, but they’ve since taken this artichoke item off — so I improvised as closely as I could. It was pretty successful, and brought me back a little bit, for better or for worse. For the good moments, it’s nice to sit in bed and reminisce the late nights we spent smoking cigarettes in backyards in Los Angeles, or the pool parties I used to throw in my parents’ Christmas-light-ridden backyard. For the anxiety-inducing moments that I can’t push out of my head on my own, well, there’s always a half a Xanax in my bag. I’ve never been so thankful for science.

Recipe after the jump.

broiled balsamic artichokes with pesto mayo // sweetsonian

broiled balsamic artichokes with pesto mayo // sweetsonian

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Honey Glazed Honey Cakes

0

25.4.14

honey cakes // sweetsonian

The person who really got me into cooking is a friend of my father. I really had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen until the summer I spent working in his kitchen for extra cash for my trip to Tanzania — he was more generous than the data entry job at the bank was back in 2005, and he promised that I would leave Los Angeles that summer with the kitchen basics. And he was right.

By trade, he ran a construction business. When I asked him why he cooked so much if he ran a contracting business, he told me that his entire life, he loved two things: “building shit, and cooking.”

So his decisions were rather simple: he started his business and found clients by word of mouth (much in the same way I do now, with design), and in his spare time, he cooked. Cooking was his hobby, and where he invested almost all of his time and energy.

Over the years, he let me in on a little secret that he had kept for years — something he called the Twelve Man meal.

Back then, it was a pretty well-kept secret. Basically, he and a few chef friends would host monthly dinners, all at different homes or locations. They coordinated and planned and cooked and paired, and each month, they invited a select few of their friends to share the meal. It was their boys club. And when word started to get around, the invitations became a coveted affair.

What I didn’t realize was that this was a supper club. I wanted this for myself. Still do.

honey cakes // sweetsonian

It’s always been a dream of mine to move into a pretty Brooklyn apartment with a nice roof deck — a summer supper club with a few close friends and acquaintances twice removed is somewhere on my to-do list. Lately, friends have been getting me to visualize a pretty one-bedroom on the Upper East Side (primarily so we force each other to go to soul cycle on the reg), so it’s all up in the air.

Earlier this year, I said my goals for 2014 were to get hella fit, fall in love, and move to New York. And I’d be happy if two of those three things happened. Well, two of the three are well on their way.

Real talk.

I’ve been interviewing as aggressively as last year’s dating calendar (honestly, who goes on three dates a week for a year straight?! NEVER. AGAIN.) and hopefully, something will pan out. I wasn’t expecting such a good response from job apps, because, you know, I’m still in shock that I’m actually a designer and an art director and that people want to pay me to do these things even though I studied Arabic for years and not design. But I’ve been coming to terms with reality, and I’m starting to get a hold of what I want and what I can offer.

In fact, in an interview yesterday morning, I was asked: why New York, why now?

I’ve gotten that question before, but never phrased with the “why now” part. So I paused, and just spoke from the heart. And the words that I exhaled from my mouth said something to the effect of — you know, I’ve always loved — loved — New York, and I finally feel like I’m at a place in my career where I’ve learned all that I can at my current job, and that I feel like I really have something more to offer to my next one.

And it’s true: I will always love where I work now. It’s the first job I ever enjoyed, let alone been excited to go to every. single. day. Okay, maybe not every single day, but still a vast majority of the days. Even though I complain about wanting to do my job from bed (like every five minutes).

honey cakes // sweetsonian

honey cakes // sweetsonian

Anyway, the real talk is that I feel like my life is on the cusp of something big. I wrote something similar two years ago, when I was also aggressively interviewing for jobs and/or crying after I got my financial aid package from grad school — oh man, remember when I thought I was going to grad school?!

The past couple of years have been such an adventure. Too often, we find ourselves taking this adventure for granted. We get so caught up in the travel and every day stress of our jobs and the details that are, more often than not, absolutely meaningless. People advise us to do what you love or do what pays the bills or ask him out or make them earn it. The truth is that at some point, advice can only take you so far. You gotta do what’s right for you. I, somehow, by the grace of God or luck or science or whatever makes the world go ’round, found myself working for people that want the best for you — to find your dream job and create something amazing that will blow everyone’s minds, which we get to do pretty often as-is.

I guess the point of all of this is that I’m grateful. For the people who taught me how to cook, how to take photos, how to design, how to solve problems, and how to speak from the heart. And, as Emily says on the reg — “You do you, girlfriend. You do you.” Because we all gotta get somewhere, and the people that matter are the ones that will love you no matter where you go or what you do for a living.

When I first started writing this post, I envisioned connecting this recipe to that guy up there that taught me how to cook — because he keeps his own bees and sends me home-grown honey and lip balms and body butters every now and then. I digress. But anyway, this would be great if you had some home-grown honey. The store-bought works just as well, but you’ll have less to humblebrag about :)

Happy Friday. Lurve you guys. Recipe after the jump.

honey cakes // sweetsonian

honey cakes // sweetsonian

honey cakes // sweetsonian

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Sun-Dried tomato and Jalapeño cheddar biscuits

1

06.3.14

sun-dried tomato jalapeno biscuits

Tuesday night, I found myself in a much-needed yoga class.

The past couple of weeks have been unconditionally brutal. You know those days where you literally have every single minute planned? Yeah. Try that for ten days straight. It makes my bones ache. And it takes me at least a few days to get back to normal, because stress is just something that I can’t handle these days. I was covering ARPA-E as a photographer (hellooooo, government nerd fest), gave a presentation to a design group in DC with some coworkers about why Energy.gov is awesome, and even ventured out to Vienna, Virginia, to see a friend of a friend of a friend perform, who happens to be an amazing singer/songwriter.

In high school and college, I thrived on stress. I needed to overload myself in order to get things done. I also used to drink so many vodka-red-bulls that I probably should have had a heart attack by junior year. But now, just the thought of having plans every night of the week makes me cringe. Even this last weekend — I could say it was relaxing, because I spent most of it snuggled up in bed or petting puppies tied up outside of Chipotle, but it was a weekend that had every living moment planned. There was no sudoku in bed, or impromptu Netflix wormholes, or hours with a book on the Java House patio. Lots of fun, but it still felt busy.

So finally, after what seemed like 4247895 days of straight-up booked calendar entries, I made it to the gym. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to schedule yoga. I savor my workouts as something I opt to do in the time that I have for myself — and no one else. So finally, this week, I refused to pencil anything in. I went to yoga — a time slot and an instructor I had never been to before.

I set up my mat, and relaxed for a few minutes. And… ten minutes into the class, the teacher was still missing.

I’m sure the other 20 people in the class had varying levels of stress from their days and the week before, so when our gym manager came down to apologize, it was clear that the instructor wasn’t coming. But the most amazing thing happened — a woman sitting in the front row promised that she was a certified yoga instructor, and volunteered to teach the class.

Naturally, a room full of yogis is probably the most laid-back group of people ever, so almost everyone exclaimed something to the effect of “that would be AMAZING,” and that was that. And she led a class that I’m sure everyone enjoyed, and she started the class by asking us to practice forgiveness, because she hadn’t instructed yoga in over a year and a half.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how amazing that experience was — the personalities, and the yoga itself. Anyway, please forgive me for the radio silence. It’s been a long few weeks. Treat yourself with some easy biscuits (side note, these would be GREAT on a breakfast sandwich).

sun-dried tomato jalapeno biscuits

sun-dried tomato jalapeno biscuits

Sun-dried Tomato & Jalapeño Cheddar Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 fresh jalapeños
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
  2. First, remove and discard the seeds from your jalapeños. Dice them finely, into about eighth-inch pieces. Combine them with the diced sun-dried tomatoes, and set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the Bisquick, milk, and cheese — mix with the dough hook until everything is fully incorporated. Then, add in the jalapeños and tomatoes. When mixed, remove the dough from your mixer, and using your hands, form into a large, flat mound about an inch to an inch-and-a-half thick. Cut out biscuits with a biscuit cutter or some sort of jar — I used a 3-inch biscuit cutter.
  4. Then, melt your butter in the microwave, and stir in the garlic powder. Use a pastry brush or a spoon to dress the biscuits with a generous layer of butter.
  5. Bake for about 13 minutes, until the biscuits are a light golden brown.Makes 7 to 8 large biscuits.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Spinach Squares

2

06.11.13

spinach squares // sweetsonian

Yesterday was — well, I’m pretty darn sure — the best day of my life. A coworker hooked me up with one of the much-coveted White House tour tickets. Being the first day the White House has reopened its tours since sequestration’s budget cuts took place back in January. So it was a pretty exciting day, for anyone who was able to finally get a tour, and for the people who work at the White House.

We were held up in the East Room for what felt like forever when a friend commented on one of my Instagrams about POTUS and FLOTUS surprising everyone on the tours, so as you can imagine, my heart started racing. What would I say? Was it true? Would they still be there?

spinach squares // sweetsonian

spinach squares // sweetsonian

 

The secret service closed the doors to the Green room right when we were about to go through, which put us in front of the line for the next group. And once the doors reopened and we were shuffled through, I was greeted by none other than Michelle Obama herself, in all of her glowing glory. That woman is pretty in photos, but hot damn, she is 43290423 times prettier in person.

Anyway, being from Los Angeles, I’ve met my fair share of celebrities, but Michelle takes the cake.

I. Was. Starstruck. Especially when she greeted us with a big smile and a “HIIII! Welcome to my house!” Cue Sunny jumping all over her and my coworker. I, naturally, beelined to Bo, who was sitting a few feet away, simply panting and rolling his eyes at Sunny, who was literally leaping and bounding from the visitors, to the First Lady, to the people behind the cameras. I pet Bo for as long as I could, which was apparently too long, because Secret Service basically escorted me out.

My heart was racing for at least 30 minutes after that. Marissa and I proceeded to jump up and down and scream on the White House driveway.

Seriously, best day of my life, and those dogs are the fluffiest dogs in the world. So. Effing. Cute.

spinach squares // sweetsonian

spinach squares // sweetsonian

spinach squares // sweetsonian

This recipe comes from a friend and owner of yet another unbelievably adorable Portuguese water dog — Ollie. Maybe someday, Michelle will read this and schedule a play date for Ollie and Sunny. They’d make a darling couple.

Spinach squares, after the jump.

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Za’atar Cheese Bars

2

23.9.13

za'atar cheese bars // sweetsonian

An excerpt from my past (hold back your chuckle — it’s from livejournal… and super emo):

3 days left in the valley, and I’ll probably be home for one or two days between Sunday and mid-June. And after 3 weeks of intensely monotonous work, an upside-down iceberg of a relationship, and salsa dancing with confusion, I honestly don’t know how much longer I can stand being here. I don’t see much here anymore, let alone have I talked to the majority of you in the past six months. But this friends page is just about the second or third site I click on when I go online, probably alternating with Bank of America.

Seeing a few of the old high school friends at random rendezvous made me miss the ones at college terribly – I think my days of reminiscing and telling high school stories with Cari might finally be over, now that I realize that the people I’ve known for years are finally growing up. I call her and we say things like “I can’t believe I have to see him twice over break,” or “can we go to a party the instant we get home?”

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And then we exchange why either of us made those comments, and then we agree. “I’m sick of the valley.” “The partying is so different now in Sac.” “Let’s go to Chipotle next weekend.” “Fix it, he’s your ride.” “It’s okay, I’ve been stuck in a love triangle for 3 years now.” “Did I call you on New Years?” “He doesn’t know what he’s doing.” “I hope you don’t get into UCLA, because I am going to miss you.”

I normally write when I’m upset. No wonder I stopped writing in Santa Barbara.

Needless to say, my domestic life has wasted away with my data entry job. Nor have I slept much lately, except for this evening – I was supposed to finish some sewing projects and stop by American Apparel. I’ve run out of flat fabric to actually make clothes with, so I’ve been resizing all my thrift-store t-shirts so they fit perfectly. I used to make so many clothes in high school – without patterns, too. Some things come right back after you spend months or years away. But some things still disappear on you, no matter how well you kept in touch or what good friends you are. Sometimes you go through emotions and you write more than you ever could, filling up a notebook or pages and pages of cyberspace. And you don’t even look back on what you write, but you throw that notebook away or ctrl+a+delete, and it’s gone, as if it never even existed.

It’s always interesting to read something you wrote long ago. Sometimes, I look back on my writing from high school and college and think, well, my voice is the same, but I can’t for the life of me remember what some of the emotions were about. Perhaps I was trying a form of subtle obviousness. Who knows? I was barely a freshman in college when I wrote this.

The boy in my life back then was, interestingly enough, living in DC for college, and was obsessed with Arabic before the study even appealed to me. Maybe he planted the seed. But he is as much a completely different person as I am from my eighteen year old self. I imagine he has since grown up, as he is probably a wonderful husband as he was a wonderful confidant to me all those years ago. We had good times — he drove me back to school at the end of my first winter break, and he was as sweet as he was awkward. I definitely have a type.

cheese treats 3

za'atar cheese bars // sweetsonian

It’s nice, and sometimes heartbreaking to read about the boys of your youth. But they’ll almost all be considered that someday, right? Exes, first loves, hookups that would have been nice to have worked out. They’re all reflections of our younger, former selves.

Interestingly enough, I came across this post when sifting through the posts marked “draft” in WordPress. I didn’t hate this one. I wrote it 8 months ago.

Things have changed so much since then, I can’t even remember where I drew those emotions from.

These za’atar bars also bring back memories of a younger, former self. One of my best friends in college was my friend Randa, a passionately argumentative and wild twenty-two year old from a long string of equally fierce Palestinian women. When her entire family visited her at UCLA (by way of the East Bay), she’d invite me over for a huge dinner — I’d practice my kindergarten Arabic and they’d fill my plates with food, plate after plate, despite protests of girlish figures and Los Angeles’ year-round bikini season.

She’s since moved to New York and Jordan and Ramallah, but Gchat and Snapchat keep us in check. She brought these home for me once on a trip home to the Bay, and I made her get the recipe from her mother. It was unbearably simple — and I make these for pretty much any potluck. They’re best served hot and crispy, so they’re ideal for office parties where a toaster oven is present.

cheese treats1

Za’atar Cheese Bars

1 package (20-25 sheets) filodough, thawed
4 cups shredded mozzarella — or a 1 lb. bag
2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
2 cups crumbled feta
1 cup za’atar spice mixture
4 eggs, whisked until frothy
1 stick butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Brush a 9×13 brownie/cake pan with a layer of melted butter. Layer on a few sheets of filodough, and then brush again with a layer of butter. Use about half of the filodough sheets.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cheeses, za’atar, and eggs. Use your hands to fully incorporate all of the ingredients, and then spread the cheese mixture onto the filodough layer. Use a spatula to spread evenly.

Then, layer a few more filo sheets on top of the cheese. Brush with butter, and repeat with every two sheets until you are out of filodough. If you have any butter left, go ahead and just pour it on top.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the dough is crisp and a golden brown. Remove, and let cool completely before cutting (to give the bars a clean edge). Then, slice with a sharp knife, and reheat in a toaster oven (or a conventional oven) before serving.

 

 

One Day in Oslo

6

05.8.13

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Well, friends. I’m writing from a train that’s crossing the Norwegian countryside, where I’ve also learned SO much about European geography. I’m embarrassingly bad at geography everywhere (even in the states, as exhibited by a few terrible mistakes I’ve made on maps at work), but I had trouble mixing up where Norway and Sweden were on the map.

BUT — where I lack skills in geography, I make up for in anal retentiveness for following the blue dot on my iPhone whenever I am in a moving vehicle that I’m not in charge of driving. So, after the first two hours on this train, I realized that Sweden is actually east of Norway, and the only thing immediately west of Norway is the ocean. And… we were on a train headed west, because that’s where Bergen is.

I was telling everyone in the states that I was heading north.

I’m embarrassed enough to admit that to myself. I need to work on my geography. It didn’t help that I was so incredibly overbooked with work for the past three weeks that I had to stay 30 minutes later than planned in my office, missing two buses to the airport (but saving just enough time for a slice of pizza, strictly against the health regiment I’ve been desperately attempting to make routine).

You know you need a vacation when you literally run away from your office. And this is coming from someone who loves her work so much that sixty-hour work weeks are the norm. And I do not hate my life (most of the time).

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Anyway, this pretty Norwegian is showing me the best and brightest of Norway this week. After a red-eye flight to Brussels and wishing I spoke French, I landed in Oslo Friday evening. Silje brought me to her house, and we made a simple Norwegian summer dish called reker (pronounced reh-keer, simply Norwegian for “shrimp”). Recipe below, if you’d like to make your own version at home.

Since I was rather jet lagged, it felt like 3 PM for me when it was actually pretty late at night in Oslo. It didn’t help that the sun was still shining brightly at 10 PM. So we drank wine, caught up, and watched Scandal until we fell asleep. We woke up yesterday morning to a torrential thunderstorm, which we watched from an enclosed balcony. Then, we walked all over the city, had a long coffee and wine break at a waterfront restaurant, and then toured a new modern art museum. The creepy smile statue was by far the least weird thing in that museum (it was a graphic Cindy Sherman exhibit).

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We’ll be exploring Bergen for a few days — many of the people I met in Oslo said Bergen would easily be one of the most beautiful places in the world if I’m lucky enough to catch it on a sunny day.

So, we’ll see. In the meantime, enjoy the photos from my first day in Oslo, and the recipe below.

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Reker — a simple Scandinavian summer dish, serves 2

~1 lb. cooked shrimp
1 or 2 whole lemons, sliced into wedges
Fresh sprigs of dill
Generously thick slices of bread, toasted or untoasted
Selections of mayonnaise – we opted to be healthy, so we chose the light version
1 large bowl for discarding shrimp heads and shells

In Norway, there’s only really a month or two of warm weather, so eating outside is a special occasion. While peeling shrimp might not seem like your favorite thing to do, it was nice to sit outside with Silje and peel shrimp together.

Remove the shrimp heads and peel the shells, discarding the waste in a large bowl.

Spread a healthy serving of mayonnaise onto your slice of bread, and then arrange the shrimp on top. Garnish with a few sprigs of dill, and squeeze the juice of a couple wedges of lemon over the whole thing.

Eat with your hands like an open sandwich, or use a knife and fork if you prefer to stay clean. It can get messy.

I guess it really depends on how hungry you are.

Dill Pickled Squash

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08.7.13

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Yet again, taking advantage of Dad’s garden. Check out this easy recipe for refrigerator dill pickles. The best part? You don’t need to stick to cucumbers — pickle some squash from the farmer’s market. They are beyond delicious.

I’ll be back soon enough, with plenty of photos and stories of camping with the parents and my two younger, goofier-by-the-day brothers. Actually, by the time this post goes up, I’ll probably be driving back from the mountains, and on my way to a flight back home.

Hope your week is off to a great start! Xo.

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Dill Pickled Squash

1-2 jar-sized zucchini or squash
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 dried red Thai chili
1 green or black Thai chili
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 cloves garlic
A few slivers of sweet onion

Slice your squash into quarters or eighths, lengthwise, and stuff them into a large mason jar. Throw in the mustard seeds, peppercorns, onions, garlic, and chilis.

Then, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Bring the solution to a boil. Once the salt and sugar are entirely dissolved, pour the solution into your jar of squash. You don’t want ANY air in this jar, so fill it right up to the top. Seal the jar, and refrigerate. They should be ready to eat after a day or so, and they’ll keep in the fridge for about two months.

As usual, though — nose goes.

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